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Processes of Spatialization in the Americas

Configurations and Narratives

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Edited By Gabriele Pisarz-Ramirez and Hannes Warnecke-Berger

Where do the Americas begin, and where do they end? What is the relationship between the spatial constructions of «area» and «continent»? How were the Americas imagined by different actors in different historical periods, and how were these imaginations – as continent, nation, region – guided by changing agendas and priorities? This interdisciplinary volume addresses competing and conflicting configurations and narratives of spatialization in the context of globalization processes from the 19th century to the present.

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Spatialization Processes in the Americas: Configurations and Narratives

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Now, these parts of the earth have been more extensively explored and a fourth part has been discovered by Amerigo Vespucci (as will be set forth in what follows). Inasmuch as both Europe and Asia received their names from women, I see no reason why anyone should justly object to calling this part Amerige, i.e., the land of Amerigo, or America, after Amerigo, its discoverer, a man of great ability. (Waldseemüller 70)

At the beginning of the 16th century, the cosmographer Martin Waldseemüller and his colleague Matthias Ringmann both worked on their Cosmographiae Introductio. While they had never been to America, they had read extensively on the “discovery” of the New World, including Vespucci’s Mundus Novus, which was a bestseller at that time. By 1503, Vespucci had published a description of his voyage of 1501, and by 1529, it had already been distributed in 60 editions and translated into almost every European language (Hirsch 540). Based on Vespucci’s and other travel reports, Waldseemüller created his popular world map where for the first time in history the newly discovered territories were called America. By putting “America on a map” (Schwartz; see Dickson for a critical reflection), Waldseemüller invented America and gave the New World its name. America’s ‘newness’ was as much a European invention, of course, as the idea that it was ‘discovered’ (O’Gorman). The discourse of its discovery and newness nevertheless became one of the key foundational narratives of the Americas. As...

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